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General Assembly Commemorates 15th Anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development

arton1643The year 2009 marks the 15th anniversary of the landmark United Nations International Conference on Population and Development Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which affirmed the close links between sustainable development, reproductive health, and gender equality and was one of the first international forums to clarify the concept of reproductive rights. The ICPD, held from 5-13 September 1994 in Cairo, Egypt, was the largest intergovernmental conference on population and development ever held, bringing together world leaders from 179 countries, as well as NGO and UN agency representatives, to create a Programme of Action, also known as the Cairo Consensus.

The Cairo Consensus integrated a wide range of population, development and human rights issues into a blueprint for 20 years of action, acknowledging the central role of women and young people in the development process. Concrete goals of the ICPD centred on providing universal education, reducing infant, child and maternal mortality, and ensuring universal access by 2015 to reproductive health care, including family planning, assisted childbirth and prevention of sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS.

On 12 October 2009, the UN General Assembly officially commemorated the 15th Anniversary at a special session, with opening remarks by the General Assembly President, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the UNFPA Executive Director. The newly elected General Assembly President, Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, began the commemoration by outlining the gains made since the 1994 Cairo conference, paying tribute to UNFPA in their pursuit of the Cairo Consensus, and emphasizing the need to take further action. “Consensus achieved in Cairo some 15 years ago continues to guide us,” he stated. “We must focus progress and the remaining challenges set out in Cairo.”

Mr. Ban began by remarking on the progress achieved since the adoption of the Cairo Consensus, while calling for increased attention on problems such as genital mutilation, child brides, sexual violence, and lack of access to safe contraception.

He spoke of the 200 million women that still do not have access to safe contraception, and described ICPD’s Program of Action as essential to the realization of MDG#5 (improving maternal health), while also noting that actions would require further funding and efforts: “It is not the time to renege on promises to protect and invest in women…I am personally committed to doing everything possible to empower women here at the UN and around the world.”

Following the Secretary General’s statement, UNFPA Executive Director Ms. Thoraya Ahmed Obaid also spoke about the progress made, and the challenges that remain: “179 governments ignited the spark of change… Today Cairo remains practical and pertinent, [but] hard won development is easy to reverse and difficult to regain.” She stated that during each minute of her speech “one woman dies, needlessly, in childbirth.”

Ms. Obaid also discussed the complex interplay between the Cairo Consensus goals and cultural and religious mores, the critical role of financial investment, the use of population data as a foundation for development, the need for collaboration across sectors (with a scaled up and coordinated UN effort), and finally the need to integrate the ICPD goals into the climate change debate, moving towards the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December.

She concluded by referring to the NGO Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Development, held in Berlin in September 2009, which brought together more than 400 NGO representatives and produced the Berlin Call to Action. The Berlin Call to Action calls upon governments to accelerate the implementation of the Cairo Program of Action.

The General Assembly Commemoration is one of a series of events organized by UNFPA in 2009 to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the ICPD, highlight gains, and focus on gaps and challenges for the five years remaining to fulfill the commitments made at Cairo.

For a complete list of UNFPA 15th Anniversary-related events, click here

You can see an online version of UNFPA’s newest report, “Celebrating Achievements of the Cairo Consensus and Highlighting the Urgency for Action” here

For more information on the ICPD, click here.

A briefing note is also available, including information on activities that have already taken place with regard to the 15th anniversary of the ICPD.


This article is available in Spanish.

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